15 Video Game Developers Chime In: “What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting as a Game Developer”

what i wish i'd known game developerWe here at HeyYouVideoGame LOVE video games. We love them so much that we started a podcast all about them. But we know that some of you love gaming so much that you hope to create one of your own. If this is you, have you ever wondered what it would take to develop your own video game? We talked with 15 video game developers asking them to respond to, “What I wish I’d Known Before Starting as a Game Developer.” We gathered all types of advice from those who are newer to game development to those who have published games under their belt. We hope this advice helps you!

On Why Am I Doing This?

Brian Rothstein (GoBit Games) Developer of Peggle & More!

“I think this is an important question because I’ve personally witnessed many unhappy game developers and have myself been unhappy with the process at various times.  There’s a lot of soul searching that goes into making games.  What are we doing?   What is fun?  How important is our work? Why are we going crazy over inane details?

Maybe the thing I’d like to have understood before starting is that making a game is like a game itself.  Games are fun because of the challenges they present, the difficulties we overcome, the little details and unexpected surprises, the humor, the highs, the lows, and the knowledge that we’re always safe in real life outside of the game.  Making a game is the same way.  Expect some challenges and uncertainty.  And keep your sense of humor!  After all, it’s just a game.”

Benoît Freslon Developer of EnigmBox

“Make games for players not only for you.”

On Self Care

Chris Lum (Monomi Park) Developer of Slime Rancher

Slime Rancher Game“That it’s okay to take vacations. There will always be fires to put out & if you don’t take personal time when you need it, you never will.”

On Expectations

Bigosaur Developer of Son of a Witch

son of a witch
“When you look at the press and stories about successful developers, you can see how some of them really made it big. However, for every one of those, there are hundreds of developers who failed. In 2009 or so there weren’t many game engines and developing games was hard and expensive. That’s why it was much easier to succeed than today. When you see some postmortem or success story that’s dated before 2015, you should take it with a grain of salt. It’s hard and almost impossible to replicate that. You should never start making a game thinking that you will become the next Notch or Edmund MacMillan. Be prepared to fail and earn nothing and it will be much easier for you.”

Fulby Developer of Starfighter Arduxim

Starfighter Arduxim
“Don’t waste time on multiplayer if you’re a new indie developer, it’s incredibly unlikely that enough people will buy the game to sustain it. Pour that time into polishing the single player so your game stands out.”

Saluk Developer of GravPool

GravPool video game“Your question is interesting, but somewhat hard to answer. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, mostly with attempting to make games far beyond the skill level of me or anyone who was working with me. But I don’t know that that is something I could have been told before I started – even when I have tried to make what I thought were small enough games, they turned into a big unfinishable albatross. I finally in the last year put all of my effort into finding a game that intrigued me well enough but was also the smallest it could be to allow me to actually finish. Small to develop and small in sales”

On Starting Now

Heisengerm Developer of ReBeat

ReBeat Game
“The thing I wish I had known before starting is that really anyone can be a developer. I had this sort of preconceived notion in my head that you had to be a great coder and artist, and that I wasn’t good enough at either of those to make a game. While I’m still not great at either, I found that there is a near infinite amount of resources available online to help you learn anything you need to develop a game. It only takes patience and motivation. I regret not starting earlier in my life when I had more free time! Now I have to wait until I get home to work on my game, and sometimes I just don’t have the energy.”

Connor Linning Developer of Towards the Pantheon

towards the pantheon video game
“I wish that I wouldn’t have fallen for the “you must learn c++ and make your own engine” trap wjen I started. There’s a big difference between being a game developer and game engine developer. If you care more about the creative side of things rather than reinventing the wheel on the technical side of things, using a pre existing engine like Unity or GameMaker is much easier and faster. After all, the gamer cares about the overall game experience, not which engine or programming language you use.

On Marketing

Eric Provencher (Radiance Games) Developer of Radiant Crusade

Radiance Games“I wish I’d known how hard it’d be to make a dent in the market. I always knew that steam had become a crowded place, and I sort of figured launching on Oculus Home with a bit of reddit awareness would make for some good sales, but I’ve been sorely mistaken.

It’s incredibly hard to make noise in the game dev world, and having people actually spend money on your game requires is much easier when their friends are the ones to do the marketing.

That social factor, is precisely the reason it is so difficult to market and sell single player games. Social experiences friends can engage in together make for a much easier sell, and it should absolutely be a priority to build new titles around this concept of social experiences, if only because it makes word of mouth marketing seem like a favor to the receiving person.

Without a community of players, marketing is a real challenge because you’re always fighting to get the name of your game out there. Reddit also frowns upon personal promotion, so it’s using a flair and being a part of communities is a good way to go, but its far from direct.

Bottom line, I had no idea how important the launch window was, especially for steam, and had I known, I would have spent more time hyping up our game and ensuring a large amount of players were interested right off the bat.Multiplayer and level editors are big benefactors towards community building, so it’s definitely something that will get a focus on the next title.”

Vlad Developer of The Long Reach

the long reach game
“The main thing you should always remember – the world should know about your game from the beginning. Without marketing you’re dead.”

Bobby Developer of Pocket City Game

pocket city game screenshot“Marketing is the biggest challenge when building an indie game. How do you acquire the players you want? A lot of time has to be put into social media. The game success of the game will be determined by how many people are intrigued enough to play the game and tell their friends about it. In addition, build fun moments into the game that encourage players to show their friends and for streamers/Youtubers to have something funny to show. You want people to laugh and show their friends. The earlier you start figuring out how to increase word of mouth, the better!”

Gabe Kanzelmeyer (Conflux Games) Developer of Triplicity & In Exilium

Triplicity “I wish I had known (and still wish I knew better hah) how to market oneself and build a strong personal brand. The game development market has been rapidly growing and changing the past few years. With so many games available, people want to buy from developers they care about. Building a strong image and brand that resonates with your audience is more important now than ever. Taking some time to build your brand before getting started (or while starting) will dramatically help you meet your financial goals, you still have to make a good game, but having an edge on the marketing side will help immensely.

On Being Productive 

Nick V. (Synersteel) Developer of  Dojo Storm

Dojo Storm Game
“Set specific gamedev time commitments, and use a time tracker to uphold them. In my current gamedev life, I have a hard goal for myself to do 1 hour of development every night after work (and often on the weekends). As soon as I get home, I get all settled in and then use the Toggl app to keep me honest. You’re never going to make a huge breakthrough just from cramming over a single weekend, real success is made in increments over time, especially when you have an unrelated dayjob! It took me a few years to realize this, and then a few more to figure out to use an actual time tracker to assist with it.”

Segfaultonline1 (BKBGames)

bkbgames video game
“Consistent daily productivity AND it is ok to (occasionally) count other life goals (chores, social stuff, fun, plan the next week/day, etc.) as productivity for the day.”

On Taking Advice

Dev from Murder Cloud Studios Developer of Retroshifter

Retroshifter Murder Cloud Game
“I wish I knew to NOT take “advice” found online to heart. It’s good to take in as much information as possible but to do so with distance. Believing in your own aesthetic vision(s) instead of copying what has worked for others. TLDR: have a vision, believe in it, fulfil it to the maximum.”

Are you a game developer? How would you respond this this question? Put it in the comments below or join the discussion on Facebook!


Lemon's the optimist at Hey You Video Game! Not even lag, bad game mechanics, or RNG can get him mad. Lemonsmith's favorite video games are The Last of Us, PUBG, Apex Legends, and Donkey Kong Country.

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